June Bird ForecastJune 24th, 2013 at 1:27 pm by Jim Spencer under Weather
What to Watch for in June
Here is the Central Texas bird forecast for the month of June, courtesy of Travis Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all ages at www.travisaudubon.org or call 512-300-BIRD. Travis Audubon can be followed at Twitter@TravisAudubon or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon.
Parking Lot Birds – Western Kingbird and Common Nighthawk
With the onset of summer, many Austin residents won’t be venturing outdoors as much. However, you can still bird watch during errands to the grocery, big-box store, or gas station. Pay attention and you will notice two very cool birds that come from points south to spend their summers here. One is the Western Kingbird, a noisy flycatcher which makes a sound like a tape being played backwards. (This description only works if you are of a certain vintage. For younger folks, listen for a sputtering squeaky outburst of calls.) Look for a bird with a gray head and bright yellow belly; it does not look anything like the ubiquitous sparrows, pigeons, starlings and grackles! As you step out of the car listen for its characteristic call note – a “kip” sound. In urban settings the Western Kingbird favors oak trees in parking lots, where it tries to raise a family. Since grackles are not above eating the young of other bird species, the kingbird parents maintain constant vigilance. You’ll see them fly out from perches on trees or utility lines to fend off other birds and to catch insects in mid-air.
Common Nighthawk – Photo by Don Faulkner via Creative Commons
In those same parking lots, at dawn and dusk, and on cloudy days, listen for the buzzy “peent” call of the Common Nighthawk. Don’t be fooled by its name. This bird is not a hawk and it is not really nocturnal (like owls). Its call note is an auditory indicator that summer is truly here. Look up and try to spot an elegant bird with long wings cruising the sky as it catches insects in flight. Once you have located it, look for a white bar close to each wingtip. If you are lucky, you may hear an odd booming noise the male nighthawk makes as it dives to the ground and then pulls up so abruptly that the wind whooshes through its wingtips. This may be a courtship display or behavior designed to fend off intruders. Common Nighthawks are long distance migrants that winter in South America. Some will spend their summers as far away as northern Canada.
Austin is richer for having both Western Kingbirds and Common Nighthawks during the summer months. In addition to their beauty we can thank them for eating many, many insects!
Learn more about Texas’ native birds through a series of three free lectures held in partnership with the Bullock Texas State History Museum. No museum admission is required. All lectures take place in the Texas Spirit Theater.
The Joys of Backyard Birding: Saturday, June 29, at 2 p.m.
Get acquainted with common backyard birds that can be found in Central Texas year-round, and learn about the seasonal visitors that add color and excitement.
Jane Tillman, past chair of the Travis Audubon Urban Habitat Committee, will also share tips on making lawns and gardens more welcoming to birds.
Travis Audubon Field Trips (Beginning birders are welcome.)
For more information, see http://travisaudubon.org/get-outdoors/field-trips.
Compiled by Travis Audubon volunteers Jane Tillman and Jorjanna Price